Most people won't have heard of Coober Pedy, even many Australians don't know where it is. However, this small town deep in South Australia offers the quintessential outback experience: colourful and vast landscapes, unique culture and incredible wildlife. We've previous written about the Northern Territory Outback, but this place is just as unique.
It's not easy to get to, but those who put the effort in will be rewarded. Here's 12 amazing things to do on a trip to Coober Pedy.
Coober Pedy Attractions
1. Be amazed on the flight in
Your choices are two hour flight or a nine hour (840km) journey by car from Adelaide, so you have to put in some effort to even get to Coober Pedy! But the landscape you pass along the way is stunning. I flew on a little Regional Express propeller plane and was glued to the window all the way.
The shot above was taken about an hour into the flight when the land became incredibly flat and deep red. In all directions it was peppered with dried up salt lakes.
2. Take in the vast colourful landscapes
Simply driving on the roads just outside of town is an experience. The bitumen stops and the gravel leads you into huge open flat plains like this. It's unlike anything you'll have seen before, with deep reds, oranges and an incredible panoramic view.
3. Stay in an underground hotel
Being in the centre of Australia, Coober Pedy gets pretty hot during the summer months! So the locals have adapted to this by living underground. A great way to experience this is in the Comfort Inn Experience Coober Pedy which was built in an old mine. Being underground, the whole place has a consistent cool temperature (hitting you like air conditioning when you enter). It's also likely you'll have the best nights sleep you've ever had as the lack of windows make every room pitch black and silent after dark.
4. Meeting the cute joeys
Josephine's Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage is a humbling experience, as you see the great work they're doing in giving orphaned joeys a fighting chance at a new life. Twice a day, they open the orphanage to the public. It's well worth a visit to get up close to this iconic animal, especially when they're as cute as little Luke here.
5. Outback sunrises
You haven't seen a sunrise or sunset until you've seen it in the outback. The flat landscape means that if there's a little cloud the sky will light up as if on fire. If you head up high to the Big Winch Lookout you'll be blown away by the view when the sky goes off.
6. Exploring the opal fields
Taking a journey through the opal fields is like driving on the surface of the moon with a mole infestation. Along the flat rocky surface, you'll suddenly see little hills and holes from the miners who have drilled a hole and sucked the rock out the ground. They're often packed together really close, making for some great photo opportunities. Just be careful when walking around as none of 20 metre mine shafts are marked.
7. Taking a trip to Mars - The Breakaways
The Moon Plains and the Breakaways is about as close as you can get to being on another planet without leaving Earth. The whole landscape is dark red and peppered with rocks, offering the kind of shots normally reserved for NASA. Pair this with the early morning light and you can trick yourself into thinking you were on the red planet.
8. A golf course with no grass
I doubt there's a golf course quite like the one in Coober Pedy anywhere else on earth. Firstly, it has no grass. You carry a piece of turf around to place the ball on and stop your clubs being ruined by the gravel. The "greens" are marked out by oil being poured onto the surrounding area, helping the golfers see where the flag is. Finally, it's also paired with the legendary St Andrews, with a reciprocal membership in place between January and February every year (the time when both places are near unplayable!).
9. Check out the local spaceship
If you wanted proof of alien life, then head straight here! The movie Pitch Black was filmed in Coober Pedy and one of the spaceships from the film can be seen just parked in the town centre. Just one of the quirks that make this place unique.
So this was the big reason the town of Coober Pedy was formed and it has since become the opal capital of the world. These stones are incredibly valuable with the one in my hand being priced at $50,000. You can see why many miners drove themselves to bankruptcy in the hope of finding a big payout.
11. Desert drive-ins
What better way to finish the day than a drive-in movie in the outback? Coober Pedy shows films every weekend and all you have to do is simply buy a ticket and drive on in.
12. Exploring the other-worldly epic mines
If you want an expert to show you a side of Coober Pedy that few people see, then get in touch with Wayne at Arid Areas Tours. He not only knows the main places better than anyone else, but he has a few hidden gems up his sleeve too. His knowledge of the area is so good that he once took a film crew to a place they loved so much they changed their whole production schedule to fit it in the movie.
Where to stay in Coober Pedy
The Comfort Inn Coober Pedy
The Comfort Inn is an tourist attraction in itself and a superb place to stay. Built underground, this hotel stays incredibly cool no matter how scorching hot it gets outside. The rooms are really clean, comfortable and its fun to sleep in what feels like a cave!
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Where have you been that's made you feel like you were in a different world? Let us know in the comments below.